Each year I serve as volunteer director for a week-long day camp here in my community. The goal of the camp is to introduce local youth to some of the projects available through our county 4-H program. Cooking and sewing activities are always part of the fun along with other subjects such as health & safety, bird watching, photography, etc. This summer our plans include gardening and puppet play.
In addition to their projects, all campers receive a t-shirt to commemorate the week. In the past, we’ve outsourced the shirts but thought it would be fun this year to let each camper decorate their own. I considered the idea of screen printing but quickly decided that the logistics of having that many campers trying to screen print at once would be
a nightmare…um, impractical, to say the least. Since my daughter has had great results painting shirts with freezer paper stencils, I decided to give it a try!
Step 1: Create your design
When approaching a project such as this, copyright issues are always a consideration. While technically this could be classified as a “personal use” project, choosing commercial-use fonts and graphics that are in the public domain (i.e. not subject to copyright) guarantees a design with no copyright or trademark worries.
But what about the arrow design? A quick Google search reveals quite a few arrows available for purchase as well as some that are free for personal use. Yet if you look closely, an arrow is really just a combination of some basic shapes and it’s a relatively simple process to create your own using the drawing tools available in Silhouette Studio – no copyright issues involved!
(Note: All screenshots are from Silhouette Studio Version 4. Dimensions given are what I used to create the design for my stencil. Feel free to experiment and scale them to fit your own project!)
- Open a new Design Page by choosing “File>New”.
- Using the Draw a Rectangle tool, draw a rectangle with a width of .12” and height of 7.5”
- Repeat step 2 to draw a .75” square. (Hint: Click and drag while holding down the SHIFT key to draw a perfect square.)
- Select the square drawn in Step 3 and click on the Edit Points tool. Delete the point on the upper left of the square. Using the left arrow key, nudge the point on the upper right until you have a triangle.
- Draw another rectangle with a width of .12” and a height of .9”.
- Select the rectangle drawn in Step 5 and click on the Edit Points tool. Move the points as desired to create the first part of the fletching. (It may help to zoom in closely.) For my design, I moved the upper left point DOWN by hitting the down arrow on my keyboard 9 times, the lower left point DOWN 3 times, and the lower right point UP 4 times. Depending on how closely you are zoomed in on your screen, you may wish to adjust more or less; it’s strictly personal preference.
- Select the fletching piece created in Step 6, choose “Object>Rotate>Rotate by 45° Counter Clockwise”. With this piece still selected, choose“Object>Replicate>Mirror Left”. Select both pieces and choose “Object>Group” (shortcut: CTRL/CMD G).
- With the grouped fletching pieces still selected, choose “Object>Replicate>Column of Three”. Using the arrow keys on your keyboard, adjust the vertical spacing as desired. (Note: If the top and bottom pieces are set to the desired distance apart, you can then select all three parts and choose “Object >Align>Space Vertically” to obtain equal spacing of all three pieces.) Group the three pieces together.
- Move the arrowhead and fletching pieces to their approximate positions on the shaft, making sure both overlap the shaft slightly (see photo). Select all three pieces and choose “Object> Align>Align Center”.
- Making sure that all three pieces are still selected, choose “Object >Modify>Weld”. You should now have one complete arrow. Edit the points at the bottom of the shaft as desired. (I made mine an angle as opposed to a straight line.)
- To create the crossed arrow design, select the single arrow and choose “Object >Replicate>Rotate One Copy”. Weld the two arrows together, then choose “Object>Rotate>Rotate by 45° Counter Clockwise”. Congratulations, your crossed arrow design is complete!
Step 2: Cut the Stencil
- Trim freezer paper to size. My finished design is 9.35” x 10.5”, so I cut my paper to 12”x12” to allow plenty of margin for painting around the stencil. You could easily scale this design slightly and rotate it to fit on the smaller Portrait mat, or cut the text separately from the design.
- Place freezer paper on the cutting mat. I had better results when I placed the paper shiny side up and mirrored my design. Smooth out the paper with a squeegee or other tool (I prefer my good old Pampered Chef dough roller!).
- Load the mat into your machine and send the file to cut. (Remember to MIRROR YOUR DESIGN if you are cutting shiny side up!!!) You may need to play with your settings a bit and performing a Test Cut is always a good idea. Here’s what worked for me:
Blade: 3 Speed: 3 Thickness: 2
- Weed the design, making sure to save any small inner parts that may need to be replaced before painting.
Step 3: Apply Stencil and Paint
- Iron the design onto your t-shirt or other fabric, making sure to seal all edges where paint could bleed. Be sure to replace all inner details that were separated during the weeding process.
- Apply paint. Two (or more) light coats are better than a single heavy coat. I used the Fabric Creations paint by Plaid with great results. Be sure to place a layer of cardboard inside the shirt to prevent paint bleeding through to the back.
- When paint is almost dry, carefully remove the stencil. (Hint: if you’re impatient like me, speed up drying time with a heat gun or blow dryer!)
- Set the paint according to manufacturer’s directions.
I had a few small areas of bleed but overall I’m really pleased with how mine turned out. I can hardly wait to see what the kiddos create and I look forward to creating more stencil designs for shirts, home decor, etc! If you decide to try this method, I’d love to see what you make. Leave a comment here or visit me over on my Facebook page.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some stencils to cut!
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Lycia is a lifelong crafter whose goal is to help others find value, confidence, and joy in whatever they create. She geeks out on using technology to supercharge craft projects with Silhouette Studio, Design Space, Glowforge, sublimation, etc.! Lycia teaches these skills and more through online tutorials and videos as well as in-person classes at both the local and national levels.